Energy from Waste is a continually evolving space within the waste industry. As REMONDIS’ Alex Hatherly tells Waste Management Review, developing multi-faceted waste management precincts, often enabled by EfW facilities, will help Australia catch up with its international peers.
With more than 40 years of experience within Australia’s waste industry, REMONDIS has influenced and witnessed many changes within the sector.
Alex Hatherly, Chief Technical Officer of REMONDIS Australia, explains that from humble beginnings, the company is now at the forefront of waste technology.
“REMONDIS, like most of the waste industry, started as a trucks and bins business, but for a while now our plan has been to push the business into infrastructure, recycling and resource recovery, and play a key role in the circular economy,” Alex says.
He adds that the need for rapid change within the industry was one of the leading factors in the creation of his role at REMONDIS.
As the company’s Chief Technical Officer, Hatherly is overseeing the development of multiple waste management precincts in Australia, with a goal of maximising recycling and finding innovative solutions to divert waste from landfill.
REMONDIS says it’s inevitable that Energy from Waste technology will be embraced in Australia as part of a precinct-based approach, in line with world’s best practice across Europe, the United States, and Asia.
“The need to get away from landfills and find different ways of diverting waste has grown exponentially, so my role was created specifically for that purpose,” Alex says.
The desire to divert waste from landfill has resulted in the local implementation of REMONDIS’s proven global technology suite but compared to international operations Australia is still well behind.
While markets and waste industries have taken a leap in terms of Energy from Waste technology overseas, an inconsistent legislative approach
and lack of longer-term planning
across Australia has seen local opportunities missed.
“If you look overseas, you’ll see that most of Europe has had partial bans on landfill for 20 to 30 years,” Alex says.
“Australia has a lot of land space so in terms of landfill diversion we are behind. REMONDIS sees this as a great opportunity. We can take bigger steps in terms of recycling and energy capture, and we can make that happen by continuing to bring new technology to Australia.
“We have a history of introducing technology into the Australian waste industry. In fact, we introduced the first contract for the wheelie bin in the 1980s.”
REMONDIS has also paved the way for the development of waste technology for organic waste, with the company introducing Australia’s first in-vessel composting structure in Port Macquarie, New South Wales.
“This is not brand-new technology to the world. One of the good things about Australia being a few steps behind Europe in the waste industry is that we have the chance to step in with proven technology, which is new to the local market,” Alex says.
“We don’t have to go through the growing pains in developing the technology like European nations have had to. The technology is there waiting to be implemented.”
“Through running the largest recycling precinct in Europe (Lippe Plant in Lünen, Germany), we have been able to combine different technologies to work in harmony,” he says.
“Energy from Waste, for example, creates electricity and also excess heat. That heat can be used in an organic’s facility. The electricity that is generated can also be used in a plastics recycling facility. Those types of activities can feed each other, which is a major benefit that we have seen from the precinct-based approach.”
Alex says a lack of education and context around the functionality of such facilities is a major factor in the slow take-up of Energy from Waste within Australia, compared to European waste industries.
He adds that Energy from Waste facilities have been operating safely in major cities around the world for many years, including Paris, London, Copenhagen, Cologne, Zurich, Vienna, Palm Beach and Singapore.
“We need to ensure that the community understands that this technology is safe, what the technology actually is, and what the benefits will really be,” he says.
The effectiveness of the technology and precinct approach in reducing levels of landfill is also a benefit.
Australia’s National Waste Report 2020 stated that an estimated 74.1 million tonnes of waste were generated in 2018-19, with 14.3 million tonnes consisting of organic waste.
Increasing levels of waste production has meant greater pressure on landfill, meaning the demand for alternative forms of waste removal such as Energy from Waste is rising.
“Eventually, we have to move away from landfills, and everybody knows that,” Alex says.
“We can do this by educating the community, but more importantly, creating a level of trust within the community.
“Energy from Waste can divert 95 per cent of waste from landfill. We are developing technology to reduce that 4 or 5 per cent that is still going to landfill.”
Planning has already begun for a new REMONDIS precinct near Newcastle, north of Sydney. A $20 million investment has been committed towards the project.
Energy from Waste would be a linchpin of REMONDIS’s proposed $700 million waste management precinct that would be situated in Swanbank, Queensland.
As Alex explains, Energy from Waste is an answer for sustainable waste management, but it is not the one and only solution.
“Energy from Waste is not the endgame, it is a step in the process that gets us from a landfill-reliant society to a fully recycling-based society,” he says.
For more information, visit www.remondis-australia.com.au